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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Gov. DeWine Balances Pessimism, Optimism As COVID-19 Winter Approaches

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau

Gov. Mike DeWine says no one knows how long the coronavirus pandemic will continue in Ohio, but he compares the current moment to "halftime." The governor is sounding a pessimistic warning as the state heads toward colder months, saying the average number of new cases is up and positivity has increased.

In his regular coronavirus briefing Tuesday afternoon, DeWine says the number of new cases is 1,447. The average for the last week is 1,475, but both numbers are above where the state was two weeks ago. He says the positivity rate is up despite an increase in testing. The rate is 4.1%, up from 2.7% on Sept. 23.

Fifty-one Ohio counties are listed as "high incident," meaning there are 100 cases of coronavirus per 100,000 people.

"What this means is we've seen this spread. If you're in a high incident county or a red county, you should be concerned," DeWine says. "We're not trying to scare anybody but these measures have not looked like this since we've done this," he says, referring to the state's color-coded map.

DeWine says Ohio has never had as many counties listed as high incidence as are now.

He says he gets a lot of questions about the future. "What's our goal? What's Halloween going to look like? What's Thanksgiving going to look like? What's Christmas going to look like? Next year, baseball, and on and on," he says. "The truth is no one can answer these questions with great certainty. What we can say is things will get better, but in all likelihood they will get worse before they get better."

DeWine says that's evident in the trend lines of the last few weeks. "The virus is tough. It's cunning. It will not give up," he says. "All the experts we have talked to for months now have said the cold weather hits, more people move inside, we can't be outside as much, that's when we're going to see more spread."

The governor says not all is without hope. He says Ohioans have done "exceedingly well" so far, when compared with other countries and other states.

"What we've really avoided is this huge spike where we would see our hospitals overflowing. We all remember seeing those stories coming out of Italy. We've seen them come out of New York. We've seen them come out of California, Texas, Florida, more recently, Mississippi."

Despite Ohio's death total of 5,017 as of Tuesday, high unemployment, failing businesses, and impacts on mental health, "we are in better shape than we would have been, if hadn't made the sacrifices."

DeWine says those include mask wearing and social distancing.

He adds there's every indication Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to develop and distribute a COVID-19 vaccine, is working.

"As the New York Times reported (Monday), the operation is, and I quote 'working with remarkable efficiency.' Doesn't mean there won't be glitches. Doesn't mean it'll be perfect. But it seems to be coming along."

Until a vaccine is readily available, DeWine encourages Ohioans focus on what they can control: the basic hygiene recommendations promoted since the beginning of the pandemic.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.